Bootlicker

Carlos Tevez should have listened to Marcelo Bielsa

Written by: Rob Conlon
Artwork by: Eamonn Dalton
Carlos Tevez, grinning like he has just watched Man City get beat, and Marcelo Bielsa, looking at the floor like — well, like always

Carlos Tevez has tricked me. For a long time, it felt like Tevez might be a rare example of an ex-Scum player it’s okay to like. It is possible, just look at Johnny Giles and Gordon Strachan. We don’t just like them, we love them. Tevez, however, has cheated me.

There was a lot to like about Tevez. In his first season in English football, he sent Neil Warnock and Sheffield United crying back to the Championship, keeping West Ham up at their expense by scoring at Old Trafford. His two years as a Scum player were an inconvenience, sure, until he found his moral compass and left them all seething by joining Manchester City, upsetting Fergie and calling Gary Neville a “bootlicker” on his way out. At City he threw a Kanye, refusing to come off the bench in a Champions League match against Bayern Munich, going on holiday to play golf for a few months after being told by Roberto Mancini he wouldn’t play for City again, then returning to win the title on the final day by snatching it from Scum. During the same season, we were watching Andy Keogh, Danny Webber and Mikael Forssell playing as strikers. Tevez might as well have been playing a different sport.

Judging by the way he struggled not to piss himself while watching City throw away the Champions League semi-final to Real Madrid a couple of months ago, that playful streak of anarchy hasn’t left Tevez:

Carlos Tevez and Sergio Aguero on a livestream watching Man City concede twice in extra-time against Real Madrid — Aguero looks gutted, Tevez is grinning

But Tevez has gone too far this time. If I was willing to look beyond his Scum connections, I cannot ignore him letting down Marcelo Bielsa. Tevez was brought into the Argentina team by Bielsa in 2004, losing in the Copa America final on penalties to Brazil that summer before winning gold at the Athens Olympic Games, where Tevez top scored and was the spearhead of a young team promising an exciting future under Bielsa — until he quit as manager, exhausted, two weeks later.

Despite their short time working together, Tevez has often named Bielsa as one of the best managers and biggest influences on his career. Which leads me to ask, if he has so much respect for Bielsa, why the hell has he just taken over as manager of Rosario Central, sworn enemies of Bielsa’s boyhood, adulthood, everyhood club Newell’s Old Boys?

Tevez only retired as a player at the start of the month, but has already become Central’s fourth manager of the season. Kily Gonzalez started the campaign in the dugout, but was sacked after Newell’s ignored the exploding grenades and won the Clasico in Central’s own stadium. Leonardo Somoza was hired as his replacement, taking charge of ten games before walking away six weeks into a year-and-a-half contract, complaining about a lack of incoming transfers after overseeing only two victories. Interim boss German Rivarola led Central to a 1-0 win over former Bielsa assistant Diego Reyes’ Godoy Cruz, courtesy of a penalty scored by their goalkeeper, and now it’s over to Tevez to salvage their league campaign after an opening four fixtures that have left Central 22nd of 28 teams, looking up at Newell’s, who are top.

Somoza’s complaints around transfers are part of the attraction of hiring Tevez. Reports suggest Tevez was chosen over more experienced candidates like club idol Pablo Sanchez, who is fourteen years into his managerial career, due to his links to Argentina’s super-agent Christian Bragarnik, as well as his own representative Adrian Ruocco, who Central hoped would give them access to some of the best young talent in the country. Instead Tevez has said he wants to give his current squad a chance to impress him, namedropping one potential recruit in his former Argentina teammate (and another former Scummer) Angel Di Maria, but Di Maria is on that list of players Barcelona have promised a move, whether they can pay him or not.

Nothing is ever simple with Tevez. Adding to the confusion is his original choice as assistant manager, former Olympic hockey player and coach Carlos Retegui. One report says Tevez and his staff have been given the chance to shape not just first-team coaching but ‘reserve, youth and even social matters’ because of the presence of Retegui, who has an ‘extensive experience in group management and strategy design’. But a day before Retegui was due to be confirmed alongside Tevez, he announced he could not accept the role as it would present a conflict of interest with his job as Sports Secretary for the Buenos Aires government. Instead, Tevez will rely on Miguel, from a three-strong clan of Tevez brothers Carlos has hired on the coaching staff, to be his assistant. Miguel at least has the required coaching qualifications; it is still not known if the same can be said of Carlos, but Central announced him as manager anyway, presenting him to the media with a Tevez 10 shirt, as if he’s joined them to play up front.

Amid all the questions, one of Tevez’s first moves as a manager was straight from the Bielsa blueprint, asking Central to modernise their gym facilities so the players can train in the best possible environment. But now Tevez is saying Antonio Conte is the best coach he ever played under, and wants his teams “to play at least a little bit, or half the way [Conte’s] team played.” How typical of a man who played for both Scum and City, and wanted to go on strike and win the league at the same time, that he can only commit to playing like half an Antonio Conte. If Tevez was listening more closely to Bielsa, he’d have learned you shouldn’t do things by half measures, and you certainly shouldn’t associate yourself with Rosario Central. The Clasico against Newell’s will be Tevez’s fifth fixture as a manager. Come that day he might be wishing he concentrated a lot more on what Bielsa had to tell him. ⬢

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